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HPRS 9 Philosophy 9 Events


The Philosophy and Religious Studies Program hosts monthly roundtable discussions led by faculty members and open to all students, faculty, staff, and friends: all are welcome and encouraged to participate in the discussion!

Information about special events will also sometimes be posted here.

Spring 2024 Roundtable Schedule

  • Dr. Todd Gooch, “Greek Philosophy and the Monotheistic Traditions”
    Tuesday, January 30, 3:30pm-4:30pm, Library 208 

The repudiation of Greco-Roman polytheism and of the worship of pagan “idols” is often associated with the arrival of Christianity in Europe in the first century of the Common Era. However, philosophical critiques of the traditional Greek gods, and a tendency toward philosophical monotheism, can be dated back to the time of the Pre-Socratic philosopher, Xenophanes of Colophon, who was already active in the 6th century BCE.

As Christianity spread to Greece and other parts of the Roman Empire, the so-called Church Fathers were forced to make use of concepts and methods employed by pre-Christian Greek philosophers in their efforts to resolve complex doctrinal challenges and to formulate a statement of the Christian faith that could stand up to criticisms advance by both pagan and Jewish antagonists.

Jewish engagement with the Greek philosophical tradition began during the Hellenistic Period, initiated by the conquests of Alexander, and is reflected in a famous translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek called the Septuagint, as well as in the writings of Philo of Alexandria, an important Jewish thinker who was a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth.

After the rise of Islam, the translation into Arabic of Greek philosophical texts (subsequently translated into Latin) was patronized by the Abbasid Caliphs in Baghdad. Islamic engagement with Greek philosophy is reflected in the history of the Mutazilite movement in early Islamic theology, as well as in the works of such great Islamic Aristotelians as Avicenna and Averroes. Jewish engagement with Greek philosophy and science during the medieval period is embodied in the writings of such influential figures as Saadia Gaon and Maimonides.

A brief historical overview of engagement with Greek philosophy and science on the part of these and other key figures in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions will be presented before the floor is opened for discussion of this historically, philosophically, and theologically fascinating topic.

  • Dr. David Blaylock, ‘Merchant Princes churn the cosmic bond of order’: Businessmen, Business, and Maybe Some Ethics 
    Wednesday, February 28, 3:30pm-4:30pm, Library 208 

“Merchant Princes churn the cosmic bond of order.”
“Shakai no kondaku” (“The muddiness of society”) Shinsei, (New voice) (January 1897)

The discussion will begin with the question: how do merchants (businessmen) fit into an agricultural society since they do not “produce anything”? The focus will also turn to how businessmen justify their place in industrializing and modernizing societies and how they are viewed by society. Ideas will include business as a “service to the nation,” the balance between “public good” and private interest, how to discuss business while not discussing profit, and the general view that businessmen are blood sucking scum. My remarks will be more about Japanese history, but I hope participants can add comments and ideas about other societies.

  • Dr. Abraham Velez, Understanding Buddhist “Inspired” Violence
    Tuesday, March 26, 3:30pm-4:30pm, Library 208

Buddhist traditions are commonly portrayed as emphasizing respect for life and containing various meditation techniques conducive not only to inner peace but also to the nonviolent resolution of conflicts. However, recent scholarship has demonstrated that different Buddhist traditions (Theravāda, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna) have legitimized violence and war under certain circumstances. How is violence compatible with Buddhist ethics? What are the main Buddhist justifications for acts of violence such as self-immolation and the killing of human beings? Is it possible to reconcile what Perry Schmidt-Leukel has described as a profound and unresolved tension in Buddhist texts between “radical Buddhist pacifism” and “Buddhist realpolitik”?

  • Dr. Todd Hartch, Popular, Influential, and Ambiguous: How Richard McBrien Stayed Out of Trouble
    Wednesday, April 24, 3:30pm-4:30pm, Library 208

Richard McBrien was the most influential American Catholic theologian of the 1980s and 1990s. His two-volume systematic theology, Catholicism, sold over 150,000 copies, a remarkable number for a 1200-page scholarly work. His frequent appearances on network television and syndicated column extended his reach across the country. McBrien had many views seemingly at variance with the doctrine of the Catholic Church but, unlike Hans Küng and Leonardo Boff, controversial theologians who were disciplined by the Vatican, he managed to stay out of trouble. The key to McBrien’s success was his studied use of ambiguity and the rhetoric of moderation.

For more information about the Roundtable Series, contact Matthew Pianalto, event organizer.

Roundtable Archives

Fall 2023

  • Sept. 27: Dr. Matthew Pianalto, “Livin’ on the Edge: The Philosophy of Time and Meaning”
  • Oct. 25: Dr. Jackie Jay, “The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead”

Fall 2022

  • Aug. 31: Dr. Todd Gooch, “What is ‘religious experience'”?
  • Sept. 28: Dr. Laura Newhart and Dr. Gene Kleppinger, “Sentient Artificial Intelligence and Personhood”
  • Oct. 26: Dr. Joshua Lynn, “Philosophy, Monstrosity, and Horror”

Fall 2021

  • Sept. 8: Mike Austin, “Humility and Civil Discourse”
  • Oct. 13: Tom Butler, “Finding God in a Poem: Gerard Manley Hopkins”
  • Nov. 10: Todd Gooch, “The Influence of Greek Philosophy on the Early Development of Christian Theology”

Fall 2020

  • Sept. 9: Stoic Philosophy and the Covid-19 Pandemic: Thriving in Times of Uncertainty (Drs. Mike Austin and Matt Pianalto)
  • Oct. 14: Lust and Sin in Abelard’s Ethics (Dr. Steve Parchment)
  • Nov. 11: The Politics of Race and Beauty in Charleston, South Carolina (Dr. Todd Hartch)

Fall 2019

  • Aug. 28: The Myth of Sisyphus Revisited (Dr. Matthew Pianalto)
  • Sept. 25: What’s Wrong with Moral Relativism? (Dr. Mike Austin)
  • Oct. 30: Is Trump Conservative? (And what, by the way, is conservatism?) (Dr. Joshua Lynn)
  • Nov. 20: Leviathan and the Air-Pump (Dr. Tim Smit)

Spring 2023

  • Jan. 25: Faculty Panel (Pianalto, Newhart, Kleppinger), “Is the College Essay Dead? Teaching, Writing, and Thinking in the Age of ChatGPT” 
  • Feb. 22: Dr. Steve Parchment, “Salvation Through Philosophy?”
  • Mar. 29: Dr. Abraham Velez, “The (in)compatibility between Buddhism and Science”
  • Apr. 26: Dr. Mike Austin, “Values and Virtues: Responding to Christian Nationalism”

Spring 2022

  • March 9: Matthew Pianalto, “Recent Debates about the Meaning of Life”
  • April 27: Mina Yazdani, “The Crucifixion of Jesus and the Unity of Religions”

Spring 2021

  • Feb. 17: What is Socialism? led by Dr. Jennifer Spock
  • Mar. 10: The Journey to Philosophy: Laura Newhart, Mike Austin, Todd Gooch, Gene Kleppinger, and Matthew Pianalto
  • Apr. 14: Fake News and Metaphysics led by Dr. Ron Messerich, retired EKU professor of philosophy

Spring 2020

  • Jan. 29: Eating Meat and Eating People (Dr. Matthew Pianalto)
  • Feb. 26: Living a Right Life: Hermits, Monks, and Laypeople (Dr. Jennifer Spock)

Fall 2018-Spring 2019

  • September: The Paradox of Socrates (Dr. Matt Pianalto)
  • October: The Critique of Religion in 19th-Century German Philosophy (Dr. Todd Gooch)
  • November: Ancient Skeptics (Dr. Ron Messerich)
  • February 6: Is There a Moral Right to Own a Gun? (Dr. Mike Austin)
  • February 27: The Ethics of Ticket Scalping (Dr. Laura Newhart)
  • March 27: Cosmopolitanism, Pluralism, and Human Dignity (Dr. Ron Messerich)
  • April 24: Why Did Buddha and Jesus Die? (Dr. Abraham Velez)

History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies

521 Lancaster Ave.
Keith 323
Richmond, KY 40475
Phone: 859-622-1287


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